IFJ Calls for Release of Burundi Journalists Imprisoned for Coup Coverage

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today condemned the jailing and harassment of journalists by the Burundi government in an apparent reaction to broadcasts that suggested a failed coup attempt was actually arranged by the government.

Two journalists were put in prison on Wednesday, apparently due to an on-air discussion about a coup attempt that was broadcast in August on private radio station Radio Publique Africaine (RPA). Two other journalists were summoned to appear in court on Friday due to their involvement in the broadcast.

On Wednesday, RPA editor-in-chief Serge Nibizi and journalists Domitille Kiramvu and André-Palice Ndimurukundo were summoned to the office of the public prosecutor of Bujumbura. Ndimurukundo was released but Nibizi and Kiramvu were arrested for allegedly threatening state security and broadcasting information on a case under judicial investigation. The journalists Bob Rugurika and Christella Ruvaru of RPA received summonses to appear before the prosecutor on Friday.

“We firmly condemn this harassment on the journalists of RPA and call for their immediate and unconditional release,” said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. “It’s a clear attempt for the government to muzzle the independent press on issues related to the alleged foiled coup and that would mean that Pierre Nkurunziza regime has something to hide in this case.”

According to some of their colleagues, on August 2006 RPA journalists read and commented on articles published in the pro-governmental Intumwa newspaper, which reported an alleged conversation between an army officer and an opposition leader regarding a coup attempt.

Between 31 July and 20 August several opposition leaders were accused of plotting a coup and were arrested.

Since then, the director of RPA, Alexis Sinduhije, has been in hiding for fears of his security after broadcasting the story.

RPA’s coverage attempted to prove that it was a fake coup organised by the government and the station broadcasted a live interview of Alain Mugabarabona, a former rebel chief and the main witness of the prosecutor, who said he was tortured and forced to lie about the people arrested.

The Burundi journalists’ association, the Burundi broadcasters’ association, the Burundi Press House, the female journalists association and the Burundi press observer organisation have all said they are shocked by the outcome of judicial proceedings against the journalists, which seemed planned in advance. The organisations said they will fight for the unconditional release of the imprisoned journalists and are open to talks with the government on the matter.

For further information contact the IFJ: +221 842 01 43

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries